Kings or Pawns by JJ Sherwood. Silver Helm, 2015. Ebook. 383 pages.
**I received a copy of Kings or Pawns courtesy of the author, JJ Sherwood, in exchange for an honest review.**
First off, I am thrilled to be apart of JJ Sherwood's book tour for her fantasy trilogy The Kings! Book two, Heroes of Thieves, was released this past June, but for this review I'm starting at book number one. This is a really exciting book and an equally exciting tour! Plus, I am even more excited to announce a giveaway that the author is hosting via Rafflecopter, which is available at the end of this review.
Kings or Pawns was an exceptionally delightful read. From the very first pages, it easy to see that Sherwood clearly put her heart and soul into making this book be the absolute best it can be, and it completely shows. It's also clear that Sherwood not only loves and respects the high fantasy genre, but also spent an immense amount of time and effort into constructing her world, her characters, and the plot itself in order to make them wonderfully fleshed and full of life. Kings or Pawns reads like a classic fantasy story while also maintaining a very distinct, unique, and innovative take within fantasy. This world is fresh and her characters are entirely her own - no overused tropes in sight! (Thank goodness.)
The beginning took me a little while to get into, but I felt that there was potential, so I stuck with and it quickly paid off. It takes me a while to learn the characters and new worlds of a fantasy story, but Sherwood tackles this in a deft and enjoyable manner that created a captivating atmosphere.
There is an abundance of political intrigue and it is awesome. Now, I'll be honest and say that sometimes high political fantasy books can make me feel a bit bogged down and like I have to slog my way through a confusing political world with excess information - not so in Kings or Pawns! I sincerely enjoyed everything related to the politics and high class drama within this story.
Strong, engaging characters are also ever-present throughout Kings or Pawns. The point of view switches between a few different characters, and you know what? I didn't feel annoyed by any of the character's points of view. I loved them all. Each one was as engaging as the last and I am in awe of how well Sherwood constructed each character's distinct personality. I typically end up annoyed by point of view switches because I end up liking one more than the other (who doesn't?), but not this time! Each character had a very distinct voice that made it clear who was speaking and fit their own character.
To continue on with the subject of characters, let's talk about Jikun. Jikun is an incredible main character. He's someone that I have great respect for and seems like an honorable man, but he's not perfect by a long shot. He breaks the rules and follows his own path, which makes him well-rounded and an alluring character to follow. One minute he's a resolute general leading his army, the next he's paying for a prostitute to entertaining him - something that is highly illegal in this particular world, I might add. I was really impressed with how realistic and three-dimensional Jikun is, along with the rest of the characters as well.
We also have Navon, Jikun's co-general, who is similar in the fact that he's a powerful, respectable man, but he also breaks the rule by studying necromancy, an act punishable by death. And then there's Hairem, our newly appointed and inexperienced king who was thrust into the position as a result of his father's death. He struggles with the responsibility and power of being king, as well as with the political negotiations that come with such a position - i.e. figuring out how to deal with his council and not allow himself to be unheard and run over by other powerful political figures that don't want to listen to him. There are so many sides to each person that I felt constantly entertained, and as much as I would love to spend more time on each character, I think I'm going to leave them to you, dear readers, to discover.
And finally, one last thing (out of a great many things) that I loved about Kings or Pawns was the villains. These enemies are easily hated, but not necessarily purely evil - or, maybe they are? There is intrigue on all sides, and although I easily felt disdain towards the characters I was supposed to, I was also impressed and intrigued by their intelligence and sly deviousness, which I believe is the mark of a well-written villain.
Besides the somewhat-cliffhanger ending (which remains vague, no spoilers here!), I can definitely see where potential for further expansion of this world in upcoming books lies. There are a few characters that I would have liked to see a bit more of, but I have a strong feeling that they will show up more in later books. In fact, I have the second book lined up on my Kindle right now and I plan to dive in within the next week!
I highly recommend this for any fans of high fantasy or political thrillers - or, quite frankly, anyone who's looking for an exciting read! Because of all the reasons mentioned above, I will be giving Kings or Pawns four-and-a-half stars!
AND, most importantly, don't forget to enter the giveaway below for some signed copies and/or swag!*
a Rafflecopter giveaway
*This giveaway was created by the author; I am not associated with the prizes or its creation.
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